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Kyle Coghill in the 2023 Norths Devils Indigenous jersey, for BMD Indigenous Round. Photo: Norths Devils Media

All footballers have their reason “why” they play the game – their reasons why they push through gruelling pre-seasons or continue to balance work with training or why they’re able to endure heartbreaking lows and heartwarming highs.

Norths Devils five-eighth Kyle Coghill is no different.

For the proud Nunukul and Goenpul man, his reasons why are fairly common. He plays for himself, for his young family and for his people – for his home community on North Stradbroke Island, or Minjerribah, “place of the mosquitos”.

“It means everything to me,” Coghill said ahead of this week’s BMD Indigenous Round.

“My family, we’re strong Indigenous people. I grew up off the land, over on North Stradbroke Island, that’s where my people are from. It means a lot to me and my family.”

But Coghill’s story is one he hopes can make his people proud, one he hopes can inspire the next generation. And that’s a big part of his reason “why”.

Kyle Coghill in the 2023 Norths Devils Indigenous jersey, for BMD Indigenous Round. Photo: Norths Devils Media
Kyle Coghill in the 2023 Norths Devils Indigenous jersey, for BMD Indigenous Round. Photo: Norths Devils Media

The 25-year-old has certainly endured his fair share of heartache and mistakes, but has come back stronger to be a regular face among Norths’ starting side in 2023 and to work with Deadly Choices as a program officer.

Coghill started playing rugby league when he was five, thriving in both the backyard variety and with the Straddie Sharks Rugby League Club, learning as much as he could about the game and his culture.

“It was fun,” Coghill said of his childhood on North Stradbroke Island.

“I was growing up with all my family and friends, growing up playing footy pretty much everyday. That’s all we knew was football, being outdoors, going hunting with friends and families.

“The saltwater was our backyard.”

As he continued to grow through the years and play more of the game he loved, he was quickly identified for his talent and started to attend Alexandra Hills State High School and play with Wynnum Manly Seagulls.

At the Seagulls he came through the developmental pathways, playing Cyril Connell Challenge and Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup.

But, right as NRL clubs started circling, Coghill was hit with a heartbreaking tragedy.

“I had heaps of opportunities but I didn’t end up taking them,” he said.

“One of my best mates from Stradbroke Island - Jai Milton Burns - he passed away right before I went to Sydney. He was one of my closest brother mates, my cousin.

“I stopped footy for a year and a half to two years. I was 17 at the time.

“I didn’t feel like I wanted to leave home. It was so much of an impact for the community.

“We work as one so if something bad happens, we all feel it. I thought if I left at the time, I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“He was my big brother. He was two years older than me but he’d cut my hair, I’d stay at his house, he’d stay at my house… We grew up from babies. We used to do dance together too and I still do dance to this day.”

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When Coghill – who worked as a park ranger on North Stradbroke Island - was ready, he returned to rugby league and his “why” started to form.

It was for himself and for Milton Burns.

But then as he continued to deal with the loss of his friend and develop as a young man, mistakes were made and he had a run in with the law, spending six months in jail for assault.

This was a crucial turning point, as he realised this was not the way he wanted his life to go.

“I got back into (rugby league) but I had another rough patch and ended up getting in trouble with the law, doing a bit of time in jail,” Coghill said.

“It was my first ever offence. I was in there and all I had to think about was what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I was watching Cup games and NRL games in there and I knew I could do that.

“Watching those people, I knew that’s where I wanted to be and that I wanted to be a family man and play football and do it for myself, my family and where I’m from.

"I just wanted to put Straddie on the map.”

With a new outlook on life, Coghill came back to the game through Wynnum Manly, starting out in division three before working his way up to reserve grade in Rugby League Brisbane.

Then, after the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19, Coghill received his lifeline – a call came through from the Brisbane Tigers offering him a chance to join the Cup squad.

“They asked me if I wanted to go over, so I went to training on a Wednesday and they told me on the Friday I was debuting for Cup,” Coghill said.

“I was blown away, hey. I rang my family straight away and they were so proud. I ended up debuting and played five games for them.

“My first game was against Wynnum in 2021.”

Then in 2022, he welcomed his first child into the world – a daughter, Kylo – and he returned to Wynnum Manly on a train-and-trial for Cup.

However, as he navigated life and the balance as a first-time parent with his partner Lovey, he stepped back from football for six weeks before a call from the club’s BRL coach saw him return.

He helped guide Wynnum Manly to the BRL grand final, but was ruled out of the big dance through suspension. But his strong season was enough to secure his future.

Coghill's debut with Norths in Round 1 of the 2023 season. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL
Coghill's debut with Norths in Round 1 of the 2023 season. Photo: Vanessa Hafner/QRL

“This year, I wanted to go where no one really knew me,” Coghill said.

“I wanted to go to a place where I was new and could earn my place off my skill.

“Norths took me in with open arms. I went there and I was 111 kilograms at the first pre-season day.

“I asked for the opportunity and they could see I was keen and so, I put my head down and never missed training. I wanted to play for myself and my little family and my people.

“Everything fell into place.”

With 11 Cup appearances with Norths under his belt so far this year, this Sunday’s BMD Indigenous Round clash against Tweed is set to be his biggest and most significant yet.

For the dad-of-two – with Coghill welcoming son, Koah, this year - it’s always an honour to represent his First Nations people and his Indigenous culture, and to show those back home on North Stradbroke Island the man he has become.

And, as he continues to go from strength to strength, it’s also important to Coghill - whose totem is a carpet snake or Kabul - to show the next generation what they can achieve and who they can become.

“I’m proud of how I grew up and where I've come from and where I am now… I’m super proud of myself,” Coghill said.

“When it comes to the younger generations, like my two younger brothers, they were there when I was going through it all and they saw how down I was and how football helped me.

“They all saw me going through it and how I’ve come out of it. Football has played the biggest part of it, and my little family.

“It’s really important to me because where I’m from, the small community and town that I call home, everyone knows about football.

“Every time I see people, they walk up to me, asking how my footy is going. They’re all supportive.

“I grew up learning how to play football over there. All the people there taught me the little things from stepping to tackling, especially my elders from over there. It means the world.

“Now with my work with Deadly Choices… I always wanted to be working with kids and showing the younger generation… I don’t want kids to make the wrong decisions.

“I’d rather they make the right decisions and just keep them on the straight.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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